Questions tagged [agada-stories-legends]

Questions about the understanding and interpreting of the story-like content found in the Talmud and Midrash

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22
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6answers
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Looking for more information about a story of positive atheism/heresy

In a 2006 article (original link no longer available), Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells the following story: “DO YOU believe,” the disciple asked the rabbi, “that God created everything for a purpose?” “I ...
19
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2answers
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Understanding “The Bruriah Incident”

Masecheth 'Avodah Zarah (18b) cryptically mentions "מעשה דברוריה" - "The Beruriah Incident" - as a reason R' Meir fled to Bavel. Rashi (ad loc) explains that R' Meir was teasing his wife (the noted ...
17
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5answers
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Werewolf in the Torah

I have been told that there are Pirushim on the Torah who speak of werewolves. Can anyone locate them?
16
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2answers
920 views

Where are the magic cucumbers discussed in the Talmud?

Where are the magic cucumbers discussed in the Gemara by a Rabbi proud of his knowledge? Are magic cucumbers discussed elsewhere? Thanks.
14
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4answers
588 views

Why was שמאי holding a ruler?

The Bavli, Shabas 31 amud 1, has two stories in which a gentile came to Shamay asking to be converted to Judaism, upon which Shamay "pushed him with the construction cubit in his hand". Rashi explains ...
13
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5answers
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Rashi's Daughters wearing Tefillin

There is a commonly held "tradition" that Rashi's daughters wore Tefillin. One highly educated rabbi/professor has publicly stated that he's spent 35 years searching for a source but to no avail. ...
13
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3answers
428 views

Are Synagogues “holy ground,” offering protection from evil creatures?

I'm not a Jew, but I'm writing a fantasy novel set in medieval Europe, and one of my characters is a Jew. I've got a group of people with diverse backgrounds who've come together to fight a great evil....
13
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2answers
1k views

Jews were on 49th level of Tumah. Says who?

There is a well known idea that when the Jews left Egypt during the Exodus, they were on the "forty-ninth level of tumah". Many explanations are given for this and it is expounded upon at length by a ...
13
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1answer
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Where did the “a cat will always be a cat” story about the Rambam come from?

I've seen and heard a story about the Rambam told multiple times along the lines of this particularly concise retelling: There is a beautiful story of a disagreement that Maimonides had with a ...
13
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4answers
395 views

Were the people of Chelm really unintelligent? [closed]

There are many stories that are told over about the people who lived in Chelm. They all have the theme of: the people in Chelm were fairly unintelligent. Where did this come from? Is it true? It ...
12
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8answers
644 views

References for learning Aggada

I often run into aggadic passages in the Talmud, and would like to get a list of references beyond the standard 4 (Ein Yaakov, Maharsha, Benayahu/Ben Yehoyada and the Chiddushei Aggados of the Maharal)...
12
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1answer
704 views

Is the leviathan kosher?

The leviathan seems to be a unique sea creature, which I've always pictured as some sort of sea serpent. This is consistent with Yeshayahu 27:1's description of it as a snake (nachash). An answer to ...
12
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2answers
334 views

Are these two urban legends about perceptions of God's help for Jews true?

The following story is told as an urban legend: I don't know if the following story is true, but I'll let you decide. Kenya's star soccer player used to offer a prayer for victory before every game....
12
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2answers
774 views

Did Rabbeinu Yonah write Shaarei Teshuva in response to the burning of the Gemara?

It is widely believed that Rabbeinu Yonah played a part in having the Rambam's works burned around 1232, and that after the 1242 burning of twenty-four wagonloads of Gemaras he felt that it was a ...
11
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1answer
495 views

Sherlock Holmes-ian deduction in the Talmud

I remember learning a story in the Talmud (I think) and am trying to find the source. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but this is what I remember. There was a Talmudic Rabbi who was sold into ...
11
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3answers
3k views

What does the angel Gavriel represent?

In trying to come up with an answer to this question, I became aware that the angel Gavriel plays a common role in several aggados and midrashim. Not only in the midrash with Moshe and the burning ...
11
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1answer
322 views

The Alshich and Lavan

There are many sources online mentioning the story of how the Alshich once gave a Drasha and the Arizal was present. In the Drasha he elaborated on the 100 different ways Lavan deceived Yaakov. At one ...
10
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1answer
181 views

Legend About Rashi

In the book "Rashi and Maimonides" (pg 302), I found the following (paraphrasing): Another story has it that Rashi sat fasting for 613 days to purify himself for the task of commenting on the Torah....
10
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2answers
668 views

Was Rabbi Akiva obligated to divulge that his daughter was destined to die on her wedding day?

Inspired by this question (perhaps even a duplicate). From the Talmud (Shabbat 156b) (Soncino Translation): From R. Akiba too [we learn that] Israel is free from planetary influence. For R. Akiba ...
9
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1answer
151 views

What was the ריב"א thinking?

In ריקאנטי number 166 (brought down here, #4), he brings a story about the ריב"א: ושמעתי כי ריב"א חלה חוליו שמת בו וחל יוה"כ באותם הימים וא"ל הרופאים אם לא תאכלו ודאי תמות ואם תאכל שמא לא תחיה ...
9
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1answer
212 views

Rabbi Akiva and Ketarim

In Menachos the Gemara relates the Moshe asked Hashem about the meaning of the "crowns" on many Hebrew letters as written in the Torah. Hashem then gives the following response: אמר לו, אדם אחד יש ...
8
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1answer
564 views

Source for Dubno Maggid's rebuke of the Vilna Gaon?

In a shiur I heard that the Vilna Gaon begged the Dubno Maggid to give him mussar (rebuke) after repeatedly declining the Maggid responded that It is not so difficult to be a Gaon, cloistered in ...
8
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1answer
244 views

Source that Gr“a finished the ”whole" Torah?

I heard from a friend that he read that the Vilna Gaon did a Sium on the Torah. Not just the חמישה חומשי תורה, but that he basically claimed that he finished all there is to learn in Jewish studies. ...
8
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2answers
98 views

Why is the first mishna of Brachos included in the Ein Yaakov?

Rav Yaakov ibn Habib collected aggadeta from the shas bavli and yerushalmi. He called this collection Ein Yaakov. He also wrote a commentary on a bunch of it which is called HaKoseiv. The very first ...
8
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1answer
841 views

Why did the rich Gentile buy a pearl?

In the story of Yosef Mokir Shabbat, Yosef is a Jew who honors Shabbat above all, and ends up becoming very rich because of it. There was a very rich Gentile who was told that all of his wealth would ...
8
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2answers
234 views

What did the Or Sameach do for Rabbi Yaakov Ruderman?

I have heard that Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman of Ner Israel quoted Rabbi Meir Simcha (the Or Sameach or Meshech Chochma) in almost every, or possibly even in every, Torah address to the school. I ...
8
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2answers
152 views

Know who the Tanna/Amora is before trying to understand what he said?

The Maharats Chiyus (or Chayos) writes in his Mavo HaAgados that not all of Chazal were born equal, so to speak. More specifically, that among Chazal, there are different levels of intelligence, ...
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2answers
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Source for story about The Rabbi and the prostitute

I learned a great Gemara about a rabbi who visited a famous prostitute. But before he consummated the deal, his tallitot slapped him on the face, reminding him of his faith. Where's the story? Any ...
7
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1answer
214 views

On What Subjects Does One Say Birchas HaTorah?

Must one say Birchas Hatorah before learning Aggadata in the Gemara? Biographies like Shem Hagedolim (a biography of various Rabbonim written by the Chida)? Artscroll biographies?
7
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2answers
582 views

Is Aggadah the same thing as Midrash?

(Inspired by a comment on this question.) What characteristics define Aggadah and Midrash, and how are they related? If the distinction is merely that Aggadah is a more general category of "legend" ...
7
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1answer
147 views

Who said many agados were to wake students?

Someone told me this morning that he had, years before, seen a commentary published in the back of a volume of g'mara, likely Maharsha or Maharam, say that many of the agados throughout shas were said ...
7
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2answers
282 views

Was Rabbi Akiva exempt from his conjugal duties?

The Gemara (in Kesubos 63a) says, “When Rabbi Akiva returned, he brought twelve thousand students with him. As he approached his home, he heard a certain old man saying to [his wife], ‘Until when will ...
7
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1answer
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What was the pillar of stone of Seth's children mentioned by Josephus?

According to Josephus (Book 1, Chapter 2, 68-71), the family of Seth, the third son of Adam, was noted for constructing a particularly long-lasting edifice or monument. ...Now this Seth...did ...
6
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1answer
346 views

Source for eulogy of lost bookcases

I recall learning a gemarah (Bavli) where a certain scholar passed away and when another scholar was asked to eulogize him he responded with something akin to, "What should I say? We lost our ...
6
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1answer
273 views

Is there a Jewish tradition of God reviving Israel at Sinai?

I once heard that according to "Jewish tradition", though it could be mere hearsay, that there was a story or legend that when the Israelites saw God's presence upon Mt. Sinai (or heard His audible ...
6
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2answers
419 views

Abigail's Thigh

The Talmud in Megillah 14b says that Abigail revealed her thigh, and that David followed her for 3 parasangs in his desire for her. In Tosafos it is asked how this righteous woman could have revealed ...
6
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1answer
918 views

why was R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus excommunicated?

Bava Metzia 59b says that at the end of the episode of the Oven of Akhnai, Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was excommunicated. (Apparently there's a makhloket about whether this was nidui or cherem.) The ...
6
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2answers
146 views

Chafez Chayim checked copies of (which) books?

I've heard that the Chafetz Chayim inspected each page of each printed copy of the Mishna B'rura to be sure that it was printed correctly (with no large ink splotches or the like). Is there a ...
6
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1answer
406 views

What is the earliest source of the story of Serach bas Asher and the harp?

This post indicates that the earliest source for the story of Serach bas Asher and the harp, wherein she notified Yakov that Yosef was still alive in a very subtle musical fashion, is a very late ...
6
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1answer
229 views

What was/is the leviathan as described in Tanach and Rabbinic literature?

Today the Hebrew word "leviathan" is translated as a whale. But the leviathan of the Tanach seems to be some kind of sea creature. See Job 41:1-34. Tehillim 74 there is an implication that G-d ...
6
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2answers
167 views

“Hit him with a hammer until he pays attention!” Literally?

Abaye makes a rather harsh judgment on someone who is unattentive in prayer (Ber. 34a): Hit him with a hammer until he pays attention! Is this meant to be taken as Halachah? Or is it just meant to ...
6
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2answers
116 views

Why did R' Yochanan ben Zakkai ask for multiple things?

In Gittin 56b there is a conversation between Vespasian and R' Yochanan ben Zakkai. Vespasian offers to grant a wish of R' Yochanan's אלא בעי מינאי מידי דאתן לך R' Yochanan proceeds to ask for 3 ...
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0answers
85 views

Where does Rabbeinu Tam discuss the “aspaklaria ha-meira”?

In Bernard-Henri Levy's book, "The Genius of Judaism", on p222-3, the author describes what appears to be the discussion in the gemara in Yevamot 49b about Moshe's level of prophecy. He says that ...
5
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2answers
300 views

What is the story of Yehudit which takes place during the Chanukkah Story?

I have heard many varying and conflicting stories about Yehudit and her effect on the war with the Greeks at Chanukkah time and was wondering if anyone has sources for her story and what it truly is. ...
5
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2answers
284 views

Is it permissible to listen to a Rabbi instead of a doctor?

Recently, an article published on a popular Jewish website, told the story of man who was told by a doctor that he needed to have surgery. He went to a Gadol Hador (great Rabbi) to ask him for advice ...
5
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2answers
222 views

Halachic issues with using a frozen river as a mikvah

One hears a lot of legends about women who went to extraordinary lengths to go to mikvah in difficult times. One popular story is about a woman who would make a hole in a frozen river and tovel in the ...
5
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1answer
3k views

Is Julia Donaldson's “a squash and a squeeze” based on a Jewish source?

The children's book 'A Squash and a Squeeze' by Julia Donaldson is about a woman who feels that her house is not big enough. She meets a 'wise old man' (who looks uncannily like an old chassidish ...
5
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3answers
283 views

A theological problem with the Miriam “Magdalene” story in Chagiga 4b

There is an interesting story at the bottom of Chagiga 4b, top of 5a. The Angel of Death is telling a Rabbi of an incident that happened. The AoD has an assistant. The AoD tells him to reap Miriam ...
5
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1answer
157 views

How do different scholars define “aggadah”?

It is common to conceive of Shas (Bavli and Yerushalmi) as being an admixture of halakha and aggadah, and I've no doubt that people have differed from one another on the precise delineations of each. ...
5
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1answer
169 views

Midrash on children and the letter shapes?

I've heard about a midrash that discusses a day when little children took over the study hall and, by interpreting the shapes of the Hebrew letters, articulated many of Judaism's most powerful ...